On Wednesday, the NASCAR Hall of Fame will announce the five newest legends that will be joining an already impressive list of 25 of NASCAR’s most accomplished individuals. This year, there are 20 nominees that are hoping to be a part of the 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class.
Over the years, we have seen team owners, legends past and present, crew chiefs, engine builders and even CEO’s make their way into NASCAR’s coveted Hall of Fame which inducted their first class in 2010. This year, there are drivers such as Terry Labonte and Bill Elliott on the list of nominees. However, they are clearly going to be elected into the NASCAR Hall of Fame within the next hand full of years.
With a list of 20 outstanding individuals, it was rather difficult to narrow down the list to five of them. However, I was up to the challenge. With that, here is a list of the five candidates which I believe deserve to be selected into the 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Joe Weatherly: Joe Weatherly was the fifth driver to win multiple championships in the NASCAR Strictly Stock division, and became just the third driver to win back-to-back titles. Not only was Weatherly a champion, but he was around the sport from 1951 until the day he passed away during an on-track wreck at Riverside.
One of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers, Weatherly drove for the likes of Holman-Moody, Bud Moore and sparingly made starts for the Wood Brothers and other teams when Holman-Moody couldn’t come up with funding to run him in the late-1950s. His urge for racing was shown by running nearly the full schedule in 1963, winning the title by over 2,000 points ahead of Richard Petty.
Benny Parsons: Benny Parsons went from being a cab driver to a championship winning racecar driver. When I started watching NASCAR back in 2004, Parsons played a huge role in helping new fans, such as myself, learn about the history of the sport while playing a key role as a part of the NBC and TNT broadcasts. When Parsons was being treated for Lung Cancer, he stayed in the booth for a short amount of time. During that time, he was struggling, and it was noticeable. However, Parsons brought something different to the race broadcasts, even when you could hear his voice weakening.
Over the course of his career, Parsons won the 1973 championship while driving for L.G. DeWhitt, whom of which he had most of his success with. Besides working with DeWhitt, Parsons also drove for Bud Moore and M.C. Anderson. For the majority of his career, Parsons had an average starting position of 10.4 or better, and bettered an average of fifth in 1977 and 1978. Winning the 1975 Daytona 500 was one of Parsons’ biggest achievements. However, his biggest achievement might just be the legacy he has left behind as he also helped bring drivers into the sport such as Greg Biffle during the Roush “Gong Show.”
Fred Lorenzen: After starting out racing in modifieds and eventually in the USAC division before making the jump to NASCAR competition in 1956. Lorenzen never won a national series title, but what he did on the track was quite remarkable. He became the first driver to earn over $100,000 in the 1963 season, albeit running only 29 of the sport’s 55 events, but was able to win some of the largest events NASCAR had to offer at the time such as the World 600 and Old Dominion 500. In 1964, he only ran 16 events, but won eight of them, including five in a row at Bristol, Atlanta, North Wilkesboro, Martinsville and Darlington.
Lorenzen’s aspect to racing was different than most drivers during the Golden Era of stock car racing. He wanted to make money and win races, but never ran more than 29 events in a year, and was even able to finish third in points during that campaign in 1963. Lorenzen also won the 1965 Daytona 500. Now, he currently resides in an Assisted Living, and he truly deserves to be honored for his outstanding accomplishments.
Curtis Turner: No, NASCAR never had a labor union. But Curtis Turner certainly gave it his all, even while NASCAR banned him for life in 1961. NASCAR reinstated him in 1965, and he was able to race until 1968. However, even with 17 career wins, like Lorenzen, Turner raced a limited schedule for the duration of his career.
Turner was entered in the first NASCAR sanctioned event ever held at the old Charlotte Speedway in 1949. He has been on the ballot each year since NASCAR opened the Hall of Fame, and has missed the cut each time. Winning 38 of 79 races in the NASCAR Convertible Series from 1956-1959, Turner’s dominance was shown, even though his statistics might not show it in the NASCAR Strictly Stock division.
Bruton Smith: Besides having a boatload of money, Bruton Smith built the Charlotte Motor Speedway and still serves as the CEO for Speedway Motorsports Incorporated, which is a publicly traded stock on the New York Stock Exchange. SMI owns eight of the 23 tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, and has multiple Cup Series events at half of those venues.
Smith has played an essential role in modernizing NASCAR tracks over the years. Even though he has made some controversial changes over the years, swapping dates at the tracks he owns, Smith has helped provide NASCAR with helping keep up with the times. He created the Neon Garage at Las Vegas, and even helped turned Bristol from a regular short track to racing’s version of a coliseum.
Here are some of the nominees which I believe will be in the Hall of Fame, but should not be on it this year:
Bill Elliott: Elliott was an outstanding driver. However, this is his first year on the ballot, and even while most people are voting for the former Cup Series champion, I believe this year should be a year where NASCAR celebrates the founders of the sport before more of them disappear.
Robert Yates: Yates, the legendary car owner and engine builder, will be in the Hall of Fame. There is no doubt that the owner of 57 winning events will get in the Hall of Fame over the next handful of years. Yates helped create a powerhouse at Ford with drivers such as Ernie Irvan, Dale Jarrett, Davey Allison, Ricky Rudd, Elliott Sadler, Kenny Irwin Jr. and several other men behind the wheel.
Raymond Parks: Parks was NASCAR’s first championship car owner. Not only did he help Red Byron win the first NASCAR title in 1949, but he was also one of NASCAR’s founding members. Although he only fielded cars in 18 races from 1949-1955, Parks helped make Byron, Fonty Flock and Curtis Turner championship winning drivers.
Rick Hendrick: Hendrick is a 14-time championship winning car owner, and has won 220 events since starting his organization in 1984. Right off the bat, Hendrick was helping drivers win races. He was won championships in each of NASCAR’s top-three divisions, and has truly helped Hendrick Motorsports become a dynasty.